Nigerian fintech startup Okra has secured a US$1 million pre-seed funding round from TLcom Capital to strengthen its push to build the infrastructure for Africa’s next wave of fintech innovation.
Launched in January 2020 by Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside, Okra is an API creating a secure portal and process to exchange real-time financial information between customers, applications and banks. The company is Africa’s first API “super-connector” and is developing the infrastructure for Africa’s next stage of fintech innovation.
The startup has already connected with all of Nigeria’s commercial banks as well as the likes of Branch, AIICO Insurance PLC, Travelstart, Bamboo, Renmoney and Swipe. With the capacity to onboard new clients in under 24 hours, Okra has seen a 175 per cent rise in demand since March as more companies digitise their services due to COVID-19, and is seeking to expand across Africa.
This goal has received a boost after Okra raised US$1 million in pre-seed investment from TLcom, which makes its first investment in the fintech sector. Andreata Muforo, partner at TLcom, will join Okra’s board, while Ido Sum, also a partner at the VC firm, will join as a board observer.
“Our thesis is simple — financial innovation cannot exist without the proper infrastructure, which is data. Essentially, how far the African fintech sector can grow is intrinsically tied to the success of an infrastructure like Okra and with our core market in Nigeria, we’re opening the door to another level of innovation in Africa’s largest market,” said Jituboh.
“There are approximately 125 million bank accounts in Nigeria alone – but over the course of the next two years, we will see that figure rise exponentially, which presents huge opportunities for growth. Our role within this is to deliver ease, speed and transparency to key players within the fintech space so they can get back to driving our continent forward.”
Peterside said the investment marked the next chapter in Okra’s mission of helping African fintechs and banks build best in class technology and solve problems for their customers.
“For too long, simple financial tasks like budgeting, internal reconciliations and credit assessments have been additional stressors for businesses and we’re filling a long-standing gap in the market. Our aim is to make these processes as seamless and pain-free for our clients so they can focus on their core services,” he said.
Muforo said TLcom was always looking for startups with the potential for high value-generation.
“Okra’s technology provides the foundation for new fintech solutions in Africa for years to come. Equally, it was important for us to know that their leadership had the entrepreneur-led focus which is crucial for execution,” she said.
“Fara’s background was vital here – she’s an expert in over 20 programming languages, worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies and is a great example of why we’re committed to investing in more female founders. She leads by example and we have seen her and David build a really exciting business, in a little under a year, we’re excited to help them grow further.”